Kit Schwartz

Marianne Deson Gallery

During the past five years, Kit Schwartz has travelled around Europe and the United States with a list of 12 questions to ask people in the art world—historians, critics, museum administrators, curators, collectors, and art dealers. All the responders know beforehand what the questions will be, they agree to answer, and they know their answers will exist in context with all the other answers given to the same question. Generally speaking, an interview, per se, can either stimulate a standard, by-the-rules statement of what the responder thinks the interviewer wants to hear; or it may get extremely personal—a soft, anything-goes reaction which regards the interviewer as being in an “I’m O.K.-You’re O.K.” position. In Schwartz’s work, both types of answer function equally. Any individual concerned with either being in control of the context in which he is perceived or with conformist “rights” and “wrongs” would likely—and within Schwartz’s procedure is asked to—shun the situation. Her questions range from open to specific to naive to clichéd; they avoid the topic of what the individual does professionally, and even then it’s doubtful they elicit all the details of one personality. Instead, their sameness is a standard against which to measure difference.

The current installation centers around one of these interview questions. Responders were asked to interpret the phrase, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Audiotapes of individual responses were spliced to form one continuous master tape which the gallery-goer hears. The purposefully juxtaposed voices sound hesitant, laughing, self-secure, confused, muffled, slow, playful, strident, nervous, and/or tinged with English, Russian, and Swedish accents. Some responders apply the statement to their own lives, others disagree with it, some become staunch upholders, others frame stories around it, while still others posit corresponding clichés. Official-looking, easily legible, professionally printed transcripts of each response, long or short, free-form or block paragraphed, categorized under each “celebrity’s” name, are seductively open on nine music stands of different heights. These music stands are carefully positioned in a gallery which, as if to contradict the dominant effects of language, is lined with shattered mirror glass on floor and walls, breaking up the architectural structure. The printed transcripts could be taken as musical notes for the differently textured human voices; so that a viewer might compare notes and sound or flip through one speaker’s transcript while listening to a different voice. The viewers’ many reflections become a surface of fragmented images, while the responders’ realities are also broken by the various media of presentation. Ultimately, the integrity of each response is shattered by its juxtaposed oppositions; the integrity of the interview cliché is shattered by the “juicy” variety of the responses. People throwing stones seems synonymous with a claim that “my statement is the right one,” except that so many glass house statements challenge a person’s confidence in objective truth, thus neutralizing any one, “right” meaning.

C.L. Morrison